Summary: Basketball athlete Ella is usually responsible and cautious, but one drunken Hallowe’en night lowers her inhibitions with her boyfriend, Sam, leaving her only seventeen and pregnant. Katherine and Danny Frayne are a married couple who have tried unsuccessfully for five years to conceive without success so they begin the process to adopt a child. These two heartfelt journeys unfold separately, but Ella’s decision about her unplanned pregnancy will connect them forever.
Number of Pages: 306
Age Range: 17-18
Review: Appearances are deceiving on this one. What looks like a light-hearted teen book about sports from the cover is actually a thoughtful exploration of the adoption process from both sides of the coin. I suppose because of Ella’s part of the story it can be classified as teen, but it’s a book that crosses over into the adult fiction genre.
It seemed a bit obvious that Katherine and Danny were going to end up with Ella’s baby, but reading both sides of the story and how each faced their own unique challenges provides insight and depth. Even though the adoption seems like a sure thing, Sampson still manages to introduce doubt as Ella agonizes over her decision.
There is genuine emotion in the telling of the two tales and I was close to crying more than once. I loved the relationship between Ella and her brother Ben, as well as the development of Ella’s relationship with Charlie. As for Katherine and Danny, they seemed to live a charmed life, but Katherine’s insecurities made her a real character for me, as the scene where Danny is crying in the nursery after a failed adoption made him real as well.
In the end, it’s the story about a teen who had one night of recklessness and the game plan she decides on to deal with the resulting situation. Katherine and Danny are dealing with their own grief over not being able to conceive, but Ella’s actions in response to being pregnant end up giving them the most precious gift.
It’s a beautiful and touching story, but one I would recommend for older teen readers due to its’ ability to be a crossover book.
“She followed Alex through the aisles to the pharmacy. When they came to the display of tests, the multitude of options was overwhelming. ‘Any look good to you?’ Alex asked, as if they were choosing a movie.
‘None of them look good,’ Ella said. She looked over the colored boxes of smiling women holding plastic sticks. Why isn’t there a box showing a terrified teen? Then again, none of the boxes showed the results the women were gleaming about. Maybe they’re all negative and the women are relieved and celebrating. She reached for the closest box and wrenched it off the peg.” – conversation between Alex and Ella about pregnancy tests from Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson, pages 108-109
“Carol nodded and scribbled in her book, ‘Yes, but how do you feel now? Do you think you’ve grieved sufficiently? Do you honestly think you’re ready to move on to adoption?’
Katherine wanted to scream: How do I feel now? I feel like shit! I want to be a mother. I want a child. I want to raise a person. So I’m reduced to police checks for criminal activity and child abuse. I’m subjected to personal judgement by complete strangers asking about the intimate details of my marriage – our arguments, our sex life, our financial struggles. I’m forced to prove my worth over and over. How do I feel?” – conversation between Carol and Katherine from Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson, page 143
“‘I’m sorry, Momma, I know I should keep it, I know I should want it, but…’ Ella wiped her face with both hands. ‘What kind of person does that make me?’
‘An honest one, and a realistic one. A brave one. Not a mother, but a wonderful girl.'” – conversation between Ella and her mother from Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson, page 201
“‘Ells, shit happens. Bad choices and bad luck, and now you’re paying for it. You can’t undo the past – you know that. And you’re doing everything you can to make things right.'” – Charlie from Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson, page 228
“Ella started to cry as her mother spoke, because she was starting to grasp why it hurt worse than she had expected. I didn’t think I’d love the baby. All along she had seen the baby as a consequence, a problem to solve, an obstacle to overcome. But there she lay, not a problem or an obstacle, but a warm, breathing, beautiful baby she loved. Even though it hurt.” – Ella from Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson, page 274
“Katherine stood for a long moment watching after Ella. Her emotions were a confusing tangle. Her elation was bundled in the warm weight in her arms, but her heart was breaking for the young girl who had fled the room. There had been no way for Katherine to prepare for the devastation she had just witnessed. She finally understood how her joy was born from someone else’s pain. She winced and inwardly vowed never to take that for granted.” – Katherine from Game Plan by Natalie Corbett Sampson, page 295